Harriet Tubman is in midstride, her skirt billowing behind her and one fist to her chest. A fearful, bare-footed child holds her arm as she fearlessly pushes forward toward freedom. The s 9-foot tall, 13-foot long statue by Wesley Wofford manages to capture the courage, bravery and resiliency that the famous woman who escaped slavery–and helped others do the same—exuded.
The Tubman Journey to Freedom Statue, which has been traveling since 2019, is coming to Button Farm in Germantown from Sunday through May 30. A free event at 10 a.m. on Sunday will celebrate the statue’s arrival.
“The statue is incredibly moving, so I think people will be surprised by it,” said Anthony Cohen, president of Button Farm.
Wesley Wofford and his wife, Odyssey, who coordinates the statue’s travels, started the exhibition with the main goal of filling in what Wesley says is a “severe gap of representation” in public squares.
“Even with these stories of that slavery period within the United States, not only are they under told, many times they’re framed in sort of a legacy of shame or tragedy as opposed to the flip side of that,” Wesley said. “People like Harriet Tubman, the endurance of people like her is unbelievable compared to even us today. It was really just celebrating heroes that are underrepresented in the United States.”
The exhibit is a good fit for the living history farm, which depicts 19th-century plantation life.
“Our farm and our foundation is a history-based organization which promotes the legacy of the Underground Railroad,” said Cohen. “We [are bringing the statue] to educate more programs, heritage tours and living history experiences, so I thought the statue would be a great thing for us to bring to the farm for two months.”
Sunday’s event will be held at the farm (16829 Black Rock Road) and include the reveal of the statue, a musical tribute ceremony, vendors, food, a self-guided tour of museum grounds, heritage animals and heirloom gardens. The Sunday event is free; future weekends will be $20 per vehicle. Future Saturdays will feature special programming including performances, presentations and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages.
Tubman was born Araminta Ross in Dorchester County, Maryland into slavery in March 1822. She made the journey north to Philadelphia in 1849 where she settled and changed her name. She later returned to Maryland to rescue her family and made at least 13 more missions to free about 70 enslaved people from bondage through the Underground Railroad, according to the farm’s website.
Wesley Wofford said he was commissioned to create a Tubman statue in 2017. The commissioned piece has limited public access, but Wofford noticed that it was well received on social media. He knew there needed to be a way the symbolism and meaning behind Tubman could be shared.
The travelling exhibit started in 2019 and happened to coincide with a national social justice movement.
“If you look at what happened in that span of time, just with George Floyd and Black Lives Matter and sort of social justice and unrest kind of coming to the forefront that really kind of fed into the nation … reanalyzing a systemic racism built into our institutions and lack of diversity in our public spaces,” Wesley Wofford said.
Wesley and Odyssey didn’t know exactly where they wanted the statue to be, but they knew they wanted it to be accessible and affordable, so they intentionally made their monthly stipend requirement low, Wesley said.
The piece has been in Maryland before in Cambridge, in the county where Tubman was born, but this will be its first time in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Germantown will be the 15th city the statue has visited with six more scheduled, according to Odyssey Wofford.